Chair’s message summer 2022

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I hope you had a good year and are enjoying the (abrupt) onset of summer. Reflecting on the 2021-2022 academic year, the first emotion that comes to mind is pride in the Department of Botany. Despite the continuing uncertainties and disruptions of COVID-19 we offered a full slate of lab, field, and lecture classes and pushed forward all areas of botanical research. Whether it be students, postdocs, research staff, or faculty, there has been a sense of excitement to get back to the mission of advancing scientific knowledge.

An area where we have made great progress, even in this last semester, is in ensuring that the Botany Department is a welcoming and inclusive place to work and learn for everybody. Some recent initiatives include providing tools for postdocs and scientists to connect with one another and better integrate into the department. We also developed a new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategic plan, which maps out some ways that we further improve the department and work towards the goal of having the demography of Botany better match the general population. We will also soon be sharing news of an exciting new DEI initiative (stay posted!).

One of the highlights of every spring semester is the distribution of student awards. Thanks to many generous donations to our endowments, a great majority of graduate students receive some kind of support each year, whether it be a fellowship or grants in aid of research, which makes this annual award process one of the main drivers of our research productivity. This year we also provided small research grants to two undergraduates (Lucas Bauer and Abigail Widell). Moreover, we are able to give generous cash prizes to one graduate student (Michael Peyton) for teaching excellence and three undergraduates (Andrew Hall, Lucas Lin, and Stefanie Lueders) for their excellent research theses. Finally, the department had the pleasure of allocating the next three-year Hofmeister Professorship to Tom Givnish. Congratulations to all award and grant recipients and a big thank you to the donors that have made this all possible!

The spring is also a period when a number of campus awards are announced. This year it was lovely seeing Hiroshi Maeda being honored with a Vilas Mid-Career Award, Kate McCulloh for a Romnes Faculty Fellowship, Julie Olson receiving a University Staff Excellence Award, and Catherine Woodward receiving the prestigious Alliant Energy James R. Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award from the UW-System. Additionally, Anne Pringle received a Fulbright Scholarship to spend a year doing research in Pretoria, South Africa and Sara Hotchkiss was elected Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.

I want to end this letter by offering my heartfelt thanks to all current members of the department for their creativity and hard work in support of our mission and to our students whose thirst for knowledge is a source of inspiration.

Wishing you all a healthful, pleasant, and rewarding summer!

David Baum
Professor and Chair
Department of Botany